A hospital on Vancouver Island is forced to close its emergency department once again, and a staff shortage is to blame, according to Island Health.
On Thursday, North Island residents were advised that the ER within Port McNeill Hospital (PMH) would temporarily close, starting at 7 a.m. on Friday, May 13th until 7 a.m. on Monday, May 16th.
“During this timeframe, no new patients will be admitted to PMH,” reads a statement, urging locals with a medical emergency to call 911 or head to Port Hardy Hospital, if possible, which is a half-hour drive away.
Island Health says staff is actively recruiting to fill nursing vacancies in the region, working with partners to increase staffing levels in the interim.
“The staffing challenges experienced on the North Island are not unique to that region, or even Island Health,” said the statement.
But this isn’t the first time PMH’s ER has closed—it shut down for days in March because the doctor initially scheduled to work was no longer available.
According to Island Health, an ongoing national shortage is affecting all healthcare provider groups, including nursing—with issues amplified in rural and smaller communities due to lower staffing numbers.
“Island Health acknowledges this is not an ideal situation for the community, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience experienced by this temporary service reduction,” it added.
PMH closure comes amid National Nurses Week
National Nurses Week is wrapping up.
Only this year, as two public health emergencies plague BC’s healthcare system, nurses aren’t celebrating, according to the British Columbia Nurses Union (BCNU).
BCNU president Aman Grewal says the healthcare system is buckling under pressure, forcing the union and its members to plead for more action to be taken by the provincial government.
“Enough is enough. We need action now,” Grewal said, pointing to a survey that found many nurses working in emergency and intensive care settings are ready to quit.
On Monday, the BCNU hosted a vigil in Victoria to give nurses, first responders and families time to reflect on the impacts COVID-19 and the opioid crisis have had on healthcare.
Then on Tuesday, an afternoon rally was held at the steps of the BC Legislature, with demonstrators holding up signs stamped with words like “Safe Staffing Saves Lives” and “Patients Over Profits!”
Province making it easier for IENs
Hundreds of new nursing seats are being made available for students at public post-secondary institutions in BC, including the University of Victoria (UVic).
In February, BC officials announced that 602 more seats—part of the government’s StrongerBC Economic Plan—would be introduced across 17 schools, adding to the approximately 2,000 seats already available.
BCNU president Grewal praised the investment, saying it’s a promising step towards “addressing the staffing crisis that is currently crippling our healthcare system.”
Last month, the BC government said it was making it easier for eligible internationally educated nurses (IENs) to enter the province’s health system to help meet the increasing demand.
“We are very pleased to be supporting BCCNM in developing the triple-track assessment process and to work with HMBC to provide financial and logistical support for internationally educated nurses,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“Removing some financial barriers and streamlining the assessment process will facilitate pathways to employment in the province and ensure British Columbians have access to the healthcare they deserve with even more nurses and healthcare assistants.”